23 January 2017

Why I Marched: Women's March on Washington - Pittsburgh

I marched because I care about women and the struggles, that even in the year 2017, we still face daily. I care about how women are treated and viewed. I care about being seen in a world where women and young girls are told and taught to stop being bossy, stop making a scene, and don’t rock the boat. Be a lady. I marched because we now have a President and administration who proved time and time again through their campaign in talk and in action how little respect they have for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and those with differing religious views. Most of all, I marched for my own daughter.
This weekend, I had the honor of marching in the Women’s March on Washington in Pittsburgh. To say it was an amazingly powerful day would be a huge understatement. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s one word, or any blog post, that could accurately describe the meaning and impact of Saturday. Not only did women from all over our country march, but women from all over the WORLD participated; France, Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, New Zealand, and every state in the USA, some states with multiple marches. Powerful, right? This global initiative simply proves the WORLD’S hesitation, fear and disgust of our new President and his administration.


Before I go any further, let me share with you the mission of the Women’s March so you know how it got started so you can understand its importance. From the Women’s March Facebook page:


“On January 21, 2017 we will unite in Washington, DC for the Women’s March on Washington. We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us: immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. Our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear. 

In the spirit of democracy and in honor of the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. 

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all. HEAR OUR VOICE.”




Considering that all women are different, have different lifestyles and different things that affect them, their families and their friends daily, it’s hard to say *this* is the reason all women marched. I can only tell you why *I* marched. It’s not because I’m a “sore loser” or a “cry baby.” It’s not because I see life through rose-colored glasses and expect everything in life to be fair all the time and go my way, and it’s not because I’m a “whiny liberal.”


It’s quite the opposite, really.


I marched because I care about our country and all its people. I marched for those asking, “Will my marriage still be legal?” I marched for those asking, “How will I be able to afford health care for me and my family?” I marched for those worried about their safety as a woman, man or child of color. I marched for all the moms who send their children off to school every day asking, “Will my transgender child be safe at school?” I marched for women everywhere asking, “Will Roe vs. Wade be overturned? What about my rights for my own body?” I marched for families wondering where they will find and desperately seeking affordable, safe housing. I marched for those worried and concerned about the increase of militarization of police. I marched for those individuals struggling to make it through the day with mental illness who have no resources or funds to take care of themselves.




I marched because I care about women and the struggles, that even in the year 2017, we still face daily. I care about how women are treated and viewed. I care about being seen in a world where women and young girls are told and taught to stop being bossy, stop making a scene, and don’t rock the boat. Be a lady. I marched because we now have a President and administration who proved time and time again through their campaign in talk and in action how little respect they have for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and those with differing religious views.


Most of all, I marched for my own daughter.


I want my daughter to know that she is her own divine creature in this world. She is strong, brave, courageous and important. I want her to know that it’s no one’s business but her own what she does with her body, including her choice to carry or not carry a child. I want her to know without a shadow of a doubt that she is free, empowered and a powerful force to be reckoned with in this life. I want her – and all young girls – to know that myself and millions of other women fought for them, their rights, and their futures – just like the generations of women who came before us. 

So, no. I won’t simply “be quiet” or “just move on” or “accept it.” There’s nothing more beautiful in our country than peaceful, organized, legal dissent and democracy in action. You know what's not so beautiful? That people apparently have a HUGE problem with women stepping up to the plate STILL in the year 2017 and that’s unfortunate. I am prepared to fight back and will keep doing so until my last breath. Keep marching, keep speaking, keep going.























"A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." 
—Eleanor Roosevelt










16 January 2017

5 Unique (And Non-Cheesy) Ways To Show Love on Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day, or any other day really, remind your significant other, family member or friend how much you care about them by doing some of these thoughtful gestures.
The season of manufactured, retail-induced love is upon us and while I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, I do like to flip the switch on old St. Valentine by using the “holiday” to tell the people I love most how much I appreciate them and love having them in my life instead of focusing on the material aspect of Valentine’s Day.


Along this line, it takes a little effort to be creative in showing love and appreciation when you’re looking to spend next to nothing on gifts, trinkets, etc. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about genuine love so shouldn’t your emotions and efforts really show it? For me personally, I will never find the value of love in a price tag. Materialistic things do not impress me. Some of the best gifts I’ve ever received have been handmade, free or thoughtful gestures.


This Valentine’s Day, or any other day really, remind your significant other, family member or friend how much you care about them by doing some of these thoughtful gestures.





Make their life easier. Have a friend who is a new mom? Cook dinner for her, help her with the laundry, babysit so she can get a shower or alone time or simply bring her a coffee and keep her company. Have a neighbor who is elderly? Bake cookies for them, shovel their driveway if it’s snowing or take them a meal. Have a spouse who’s stressed? Take on some of their responsibilities at home to lighten their load, cook their favorite meal or give them an evening of pampering.


Make a Valentine’s Day Advent for your spouse. Just as you would do for Christmas, make an advent calendar leading up to Valentine’s Day. If you want to buy a few little trinkets to go along with this then so be it but really, you could use this as an opportunity to write something you love or appreciate about your spouse for each day. Imagine how great you would feel if you had a compliment or sentiment of love to wake up to every morning?



Practice random acts of kindness. Spread the love not only to those you know, but to those you don’t know, too. Buy the person’s coffee behind you in the drive-thru, leave a letter or card of appreciation in your mailbox for the mail man/woman, make a small donation to the charity of your choice or volunteer your time to an organization that needs an extra set of hands. Put your love and appreciation into action!



Put away the electronics. For one day, give the special people in your life your uninterrupted, undivided attention. The world won’t stop spinning if you fail to post to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Ban all phones, laptops and iPads and talk to one another. Tell the people in your life who mean the most to you how much you love and appreciate them because one day, they will be gone. Tell them now how much you love them! 

Write it out. In this day and age of advanced technology, it’s so easy to dilute our emotions down to a short text or email. Take the time to write your spouse, family member or friend an actual letter, something they can keep with them always to look back on and read when they need a little encouragement or reminder of your love and appreciation. To me, there is nothing sexier than when a man puts pen to paper to tell his sweetheart how he feels. I think us humans long for this personal touch in our lives and technology has done all but remove it from every aspect of our daily lives. Write down how you feel about your loved one. They will treasure it always.  


What unique ways do you show your love and appreciation for Valentine’s Day? 

11 January 2017

Letters to Madeline: 15 Things You Should Know About Your Mom



I thought it important to share with you a few honest facts about yours truly. After all, we’re going to be together for a long, long time. Right now, you know me as “mommy” but sweetie, I’m so much more than that person, and you deserve to know the genuine truth of who I am. I’m also Courtney, my own person, and I’ve been living my own life for a long time now – even before you were even thought of.
Dear Maddy, 

In as much as this blog is a place to talk about the ups and downs of parenting, life and kiddos, it is also somewhat of a journal for you to look back on to see how much I bitched about not getting any sleep, drinking copious amounts of coffee and my crazy, chaotic life in general as a full-time working mom.


I kid, I kid.


But really, even though my blog has been a journal for me and a way to connect and share with so many other amazing moms, it has also been a vault of treasures for you to look back on and (hopefully) laugh and smile (considering past posts such as this, I can only hope you'll laugh!) Whether it’s good, bad or ugly, you will know it has all been genuine and I think that’s what’s important.

Madeline, you will find that true, genuine people are very rare to find in this world. I often feel smitten when I find people who are honestly able to live life as themselves without apology, excuse or hesitation. To be yourself takes courage, commitment and strength because this world and the people in it will try to change you to convince you that it’s better or cooler to be the “it” thing of the moment. 


Don’t fall for any of it. It’s all lies. 


Yes, you will go through the awkward stages of figuring out who you really are but once you find yourself, hold tight to it and never EVER let go. Don’t forget yourself.


Along these lines of being genuine, I thought it important to share with you a few honest facts about yours truly. After all, we’re going to be together for a long, long time. Right now, you know me as “mommy” but sweetie, I’m so much more than that person, and you deserve to know the genuine truth of who I am. I’m also Courtney, my own person, and I’ve been living my own life for a long time now – even before you were even thought of. It would be easy to gloss over myself and solely think of only you (which I do to a point) but you deserve to see an example of a woman aiming to live a complete life, just not as half a person. So, for better or for worse, here are a few things you should know about your mom…


…I don’t like odd numbers. I’m pretty OCD about this. I don’t know why or how this came to be but for me, I like things nice and even.


…People think I’m a very outgoing and a social extravert but honestly, I have to work hard to be this way. My natural tendency is to be somewhat private and reserved. I can also be very shy around people I don’t know.


…Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then a lawyer. Then the President of the United States. Somehow, I ended up in the marketing and communications field and at 40, I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. You could say that I suffer from career wanderlust.


…You were never a part of my life plan. I never thought for a moment that I would have the chance to be a parent. I had resided myself to thinking that I would live a life without children. You were the most splendid, amazing, beautiful surprise of my life. You don’t remind me of all my fears in parenting. From the moment you were born, when I look at you, you have been and will always be my reason for everything.




…In the order of the things I love most in my life, under you, God and daddy comes the great State of Tennessee. This is a love affair that will never die. Your mommy is a Volunteer through and through. 



…I’ve been married…and divorced. I’ve learned a lot about love the hard way and while there is a part of me that hopes you never have to, I know that one day someone will break your heart and I’m here to tell you – it will be okay. The pain will come, but it will go and you will pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep moving forward. You will learn a lot about yourself but most importantly, you will learn for yourself the most important qualities in finding the perfect mate.


…I expect a lot from you. I will ride your ass like Tonto. Yes, I want you to have a happy and carefree childhood but it’s mine and your father’s responsibility to raise you and quite honestly, the world doesn’t need any more assholes. Your father and I expect you to carry yourself in a certain way that not only takes care of you but shows others that you care for them as well.


…I have a very bad habit of eating away my sorrows. I’m working on fixing that but it’s still challenging.


 …I cuss. A lot. I’m trying hard to work on this around you but damnit, some habits are hard to break.


…Growing up, your mommy was a HUGE tomboy. Skateboards, playing in creeks and hanging out with the boys in our neighborhood made me the happiest.


…I don’t like raisins and applesauce. Your grandma will try to convince you otherwise).


…I do LOVE Mexican food, Sushi and bacon.


…My biggest pet peeves are people who blow their nose at the dinner table, someone talking to me while I’m trying to read or use the bathroom and liars.


...All I’ve ever needed to know about life can be summed up in this statement: Never let anyone with bad eye brows or an Alabama fan tell you shit about life.


…I am a hopeless optimist. This may very well get on your nerves at times but when you figure out that looking at the glass half full instead of empty makes life a little sweeter and easier, you’ll thank me.

Love,
Mommy


If you missed the earlier installments of ‘Letters to Madeline’ you can read them here:

09 January 2017

Why I'm Falling Out of Love With Instagram (And Why You Should Too)

There was a time when Instagram used to be my favorite app. I would check it endlessly throughout the day and often times, found it a more enjoyable medium over other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Being able to catch a raw moment in time from a friend, family member or even a stranger, seemed like a uniquely personal way to connect with others. Unfortunately, like with most social media platforms as they grow and change, Instagram’s transformation as of late has been for the worst.
When Instagram launched in 2010, I fell in love with its “real factor” as the idea behind Instagram was simple: capture a moment in time and post it online. Nothing had to be perfect; photography quality, lighting, hair, smiles, or even the setting. It was a collective hodge-podge of random creativity and it was fun. You never knew on any given day what was going to scroll past you on your feed and to some extent, that still is the case however, for the most part, it all seems so…Orchestrated. Planned. Fake.

When Instagram launched in 2010, I fell in love with its “real factor” as the idea behind Instagram was simple: capture a moment in time and post it online. Nothing had to be perfect; photography quality, lighting, hair, smiles, or even the setting. It was a collective hodge-podge of random creativity and it was fun. You never knew on any given day what was going to scroll past you on your feed and to some extent, that still is the case however, for the most part, it all seems so…


Orchestrated. Planned. Fake.


Gone are the days when people posted just to…post. Now you have clich├ęs, robots, pods, loops and follow-for-follow. There are now “rules” if you expect to be taken seriously on Instagram; proper lighting, proper backgrounds, the just right caption, the proper theme and tone for your feed, the right modeling pose, the right hashtags – OY. You guys, seriously?!


So you’re telling me that if I take a picture of my adorable five-year-old doing something completely cute, if I don’t tweak or edit the photo, don’t give you a snazzy caption or have it look magazine cover ready then said photo is less adorable? Less cute? Less worthy to be liked? It makes ZERO sense. Think about how shallow this mentality really is. Between societal pressures, the addiction for ‘likes,’ blogger expectations, sponsorships, follows, and so much more, we’ve somehow managed to boil down our IG timelines into a desperate series of begging, “Like me! Please, please, please like ME!”


The only problem? We don’t know who “Me” is. We don’t really know who YOU are. Do you even remember yourself anymore? In your orchestrated, prop-using, numbers obsessed, need to keep up with Jones’s mentality, do you remember what it’s like to simply keep things basic and real? To simply be you?


Don’t get me wrong. I’ve totally fallen into the trap of feeling like everything should be perfect for me to post a picture on my Instagram feed. If you look at my account from the first day I started posting until now, it’s easy to see how my pictures have progressed over the years. I confess that on any given day over the past couple of years you could find me:

·         Begging and bartering with my daughter to pose for the perfect shot.
·         Having an emotional breakdown when said picture doesn’t happen.
·         Spending excess time editing pictures so they look perfect and IG worthy.
·         Feeling like I had to like other people’s photos for them to keep following me and liking my photos.
·         Obsessing about my numbers, stats and likes.
·         Orchestrating or planning a supposed moment so I would have something to post.
·         Feeling guilty about older pictures that don’t look as nice and debating whether or not to delete them.
·         Scouring Home Depot and Lowes for backgrounds.
·         Raiding the Target dollar spot for props and photo decorations.
·         Falling out of a chair to get the perfect picture.


YOU GUYS. None of this is okay. Why are we doing this???


I’m so incredibly tired of filters. Can’t I just take a photo, post and be done? No. You must use filters and of course, it’s always a constant struggle figuring out which one to use. What makes me look my best? Seriously, who has time for this nonsense? Editing every photo? I admit that there have been times where I’ve spent almost an hour editing a photo to only have no one like it. That’s an hour of my life wasted and gone forever. More so, do I really want to fall into the trap of being that narcissistic all the time? No, not really.


Do I even need to go into how lame the robots and follow/unfollow apps like Crowdfire have changed the user experience for all of us? There used to be a time when I would get excited seeing a comment bubble pop up in my notifications; thinking one of my friends took the time to comment on a picture was fun however, when you realize it’s some generic, makes-no-sense type of comment like, “Amazing shot. Great job!” on a quote, the appeal soon loses its luster.


And don’t even get me started on the big-time bloggers who only buy Chanel, Tory Burch, and Louis Vuitton but are pimping paid posts about no name footwear companies that you know they would never be seen dead in. The struggle of knowing what’s real is in fact just that – a struggle.


For me, it’s becoming obvious that Instagram just isn’t a valuable exchange of my time anymore. More so, it’s all just exhausting. Every blog group I’m a member of has someone in it freaking out over their stats, likes, and follower count. For what? Let me fill you in on a little secret as a business woman whose been working in marketing for almost 20 years: If the ups and downs of your Instagram account is the cornerstone of your marketing plan for your business, then you don’t really have a successful marketing plan to begin with.


It may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.


This morning when I dropped my daughter off at school, she wanted to play in the snow. There’s a little field by the road where we park and she wanted to take a moment to simply be a child who loves the snow so before walking her into school, I let her play. As I watched her, the blogger side of me screamed, “You should be getting pictures of this for the blog and social media!” Fortunately, the more rational side of me kicked in and answered back, “No. Not today. Today, I will simply live in the moment and enjoy watching my child be happy.”


Will I quit Insta for good? Probably not. I know that for the millions of posers out there, the genuine people exist, hard as they are to find. Has posting and scrolling far less made me happier with my online time? Absolutely. To me, living with my head up instead of down feels far better than the alternative and for me, that’s something I really “like.” 




06 January 2017

How to Rock Being a Working Mom

Over time, I’ve learned to let my anxieties fall to the wayside and rock being a working mom with this one simple realization: it isn’t about how many hours are spent at home; it’s about the quality in those hours. The acceptance of quality over quantity is a very freeing feeling for any working mom but it isn’t enough. To fully realize your ability to be both working and a mom, I’m sharing some tips and advice that have helped me along the way to completely ROCK being a working mom.
Being a working mom, albeit an amazing journey, certainly comes with its own set of challenges and road blocks. I think the biggest one for me has been the never-ending battle of finding the balance of time and attention to both parts of my life without feeling like I’m neglecting one or the other. I’ve often had severe anxiety over the thought that I’m not doing enough for my child or spending enough time with her during the week. I think every working mom struggles with this, especially if you’re in a working environment that isn’t very supportive of the work/life balance.


Over time, I’ve learned to let my anxieties fall to the wayside and rock being a working mom with this one simple realization: it isn’t about how many hours are spent at home; it’s about the quality in those hours. The acceptance of quality over quantity is a very freeing feeling for any working mom but it isn’t enough. To fully realize your ability to be both working and a mom, I’m sharing some tips and advice that have helped me along the way to completely ROCK being a working mom.


1.       Disconnect from the world to connect with those you love. For our family, this means that the TV is off and phones are put away during dinner time. We eat together as a family and talk about the ups and downs of our day, even our five-year-old contributes. She talks about what she did at school, activities and things she and her friends are learning at school for the week. It’s the perfect way to get quality time with loved ones.


2.       Be completely, 100% unapologetic about your working mom lifestyle. Only you have to live your life and live with your choices. Do not allow others or society make you feel as if you are a bad mom or an uninvolved mom for your choice to work. We know this couldn’t be further from the truth but unfortunately, there are many who will try to make you feel this way. Ignore the haters and keep it moving.


3.       Build your own working mom support network. Befriend other working moms in your child’s class and offer to help them anyway you can, when you can. Having these friendships makes it easier for you to ask for help when you need it, too.


4. Your child’s school calendar is king. As soon as you receive it, add all vacation days, early release days and holidays to your own calendar so you know well in advance if other child care arrangements need to be made or if you need to submit time off requests from work to be at parent teacher conferences or other important events. 

   5. Sunday is your reset day. I talk a lot about the Sunday Reset. This is your day to organize for the upcoming week: meal plans, laundry, synchronize schedules with your spouse and get your kids prepped for the week as well. I can’t stress how much of a difference this plan of attack makes for me in my working mom world…and how much of a disaster I feel my week can quickly become when I don’t do it.


6.      Don’t forget your spouse. So many times, we focus our thoughts and attentions solely on the kids thinking our spouses can take care of themselves but they need our love and attention, too. Don’t forget to find little ways to connect with your husband or wife. Sometimes the smallest things mean the most.


7.       Make time for you. Yes, it’s important to think of the kids and your spouse but it’s also just as important to schedule a little “me time” onto your calendar. This is the source of your energy and inspiration. Don’t let your tank go empty!



8.       Delegate. Being truly connected with your spouse or partner means knowing when to let go and let them. If you’re anything like me, this can be hard to do {hello, control freak!} but it is necessary in keeping your balance.


9.      Find a routine that works for you and your family and stick to it. Bottom line, predictability makes you more successful and productive at home and in the office.


10. Be intentional and greedy about your time and commitments. Aside from Maddy and Michael, time is my next most precious thing. Feel confident and okay in saying “no” to events, people or activities that don’t really mesh with your family or that take you away from your family without a good reason. Know what your limitations are and respect those boundaries. Last but certainly not least, if you feel that you’re missing out on your kid’s activities during the week, volunteer to be involved with their extra-curricular activities on the weekends or by planning little excursions or activities.


These are my top 10 bits of advice on rocking being a working mom. What tips or advice do you have to share?